Almost two months after it was decided, the education ministry issued an official notification to do away with instructional classes on Saturdays from this academic year.

However, in doing away with the instructional classes, which means time used in any activities in school, the notification states that schools could utilise Saturdays for conducting professional development programmes and co-curricular activities whenever required.

The decision to do away with the Saturday classes was endorsed at the education conference in Phuentsholing through a show of hands.

The notification signed by the education secretary requires all dzongkhags and thromdes and schools to develop strategies to implement the resolution by using Saturdays for teacher professional development and co-curricular activities for students, meeting the required instructional time, and enhance community vitality to move influence outside of school walls.

Following the notification, most principals and dzongkhag education officers Kuensel spoke to said they would be dividing the Saturdays to conduct professional development while few said they had already implemented the decision.

Some schools have planned to use two Saturdays for professional development programmes and co-curricular activities and take two Saturdays off a month. The students would take Saturday off during the professional development programmes.

Of the 80 hours in a year designed for professional development, 40 hours is national professional development, which is conducted by the ministry during winter breaks and another 20 hours are conducted by the dzongkhag.

“This means the school needs to plan on the 20 hours professional development, which means teachers would have to attend school for at least five hours or four Saturdays in a year,” Thimphu’s chief DEO Tashi Namgyel said. “They would get the rest of the Saturdays off and utilise to for co-curricular activities.”

Many said that there are 37 Saturdays in 2019 academic session, which could be used to organise sports and other major activities. This means they would be using only about 10 Saturdays.

However, this decision is not new to some schools where they used Saturdays to conduct co-curricular activities and had two periods of instructional classes. Although they would continue to do the same, they have now done away the instructional classes.

Following the recent heavy snowfall in Thimphu, the dzongkhag declared holiday in all schools and asked them to use one of the Saturdays next time to make up the instructional class they missed yesterday.

Meanwhile, the ministry’s notification has also asked Royal Education Council (REC) to work on curriculum thinning and review of time allocation for each subject.

REC director Kinga Dakpa said that the Council officially received the notification only on February 26 and it has begun working on.

Although the thinning of few textbooks was done earlier, Kinga Dakpa said that it did not consider the issue with Saturday classes.

“Before we only looked at what were irrelevant and revised the text books,” he said, adding that the recent decision would give REC an opportunity to relook at the textbooks and prioritise the contents.

However, in an earlier interview with Kuensel during the education conference, REC dean Wangpo Tenzin had said that since they learned of doing away with Saturday classes, they have been doing some homework.

“Works have already started. We have formed a taskforce to study about thinning of text books whatever possible and curriculum consolidation,” he had said. “By 2020 we should be able to bring the changes.”

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa has pledged to consider doing away with Saturday classes.

 Yangchen C Rinzin